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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

TIEMPO LIBRE

By Pilar Alvarez
Published September 22, 2005

Arroz Con Mango
Shanachie

In the ’90s, timba, a high-energy Cuban response to salsa, marked the next evolution of big-band Latin dance music. The sound was hard-hitting and infectious, and was a uniquely Cuban phenomenon: a joyous response to the deprivations of the ’90s “special period.” Understandably, it took awhile for Stateside Latin bands, which were still stuck in the unfortunate “salsa romantica” mode, to catch up. But now Miami’s own Tiempo Libre enters the arena as the first all-Cuban timba band formed on American soil. Their debut, Arroz con Mango (“Rice With Mango”) boasts all the right moves: brash horns, thundering percussion, runaway piano riffs, and an eminently danceable sound. Dance tracks like the sly “La Cosa,” “Lengua Larga” “Se Formo La Rumba” and the title track all work well. Unfortunately, the group sounds a bit anemic when it comes to slower material such as “Ven Pa’ Miami” and the ballad “Fe” (the one true misstep on the record). Tiempo Libre is a great dance band, well versed in Cuban musical traditions, but they lack vocal and lyrical depth—you can only shout out your hometown so many times on a record before it gets boring.